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  1. Default NY metro to SF (I-80 OR I-78/44/40/5

    Hello all! First Post here =).

    So in late May my friend and I are planning to go from the NY metro area to SF. We obviously want to go out and enjoy the drive out there but we are on a slight time constraint. Our hope is to get there in at least 5-6 days. Talking to friends, I was told that the I-78/I-44/I-40/5 route would be much more adventurous and a better scenic route. However, I know route 80 the quicker route. In my mind if we do the quicker route, it gives us more time to see different sites or stops off the highway. But it is only a difference of 3 hours (according to google maps). Personally, I've done several road trips around the Northeast and into the midwest areas. But never done a cross country trip, so I am very excited. But I figure I'd get some feedback from you guys here.

    Thanks for reading!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Yes and No

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Yes, the 'southern' route (I-78/I-70/I-44/I-40/I-5) is only about 170 miles, or 3 hours worth of driving, longer than the more direct I-80 route and yes, it might prove more visually interesting to someone who hasn't experienced the desert southwest, but no I wouldn't recommend it to someone with your time constraints. The fact is that five days would be the absolute minimum time required for the NYC to SF drive via I-80. But that would be with no sightseeing stops whatsoever. If you can afford that sixth day, then I would take it and use it for taking time off driving each day to see something rather then spending roughly half of it just to drive a longer route.

    I-80 is relaxingly scenic through Pennsylvania, historic through the High Plains (follows the old Oregon Trail alignment), stunning through the Rockies, magnificently desolate through the Basin and Range Province, and finishes up by going past Lake Tahoe, over the Sierra Nevada and across the Central Valley. The only place where I would suggest a change from simply following it all the way is through the Midwest where it would take you down toll road after toll road and through Chicago. Instead, I'd suggest that you look at continuing straight ahead onto I-76 when I-80 joins the Ohio Turnpike, using I-71 to drop down from Akron to Columbus and taking I-70 west from there to Indianapolis. Next up take I-74 to Champaign-Urbana and I-72 to Hannibal MO (Mark Twain's home town), and US-36 (four-lane divided highway) across northern Missouri to St. Joseph. You'd then reconnect to I-80 at Lincoln NE by taking I-29 north to Nebraska City and NE-2 west from there. That detour would cost you about an hour and a half over just following I-80, but you could easily lose that much time in the Chicago suburbs anyway, and you still have most of your 'extra' sixth day to explore any sites that interest you en route.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-02-2016 at 12:13 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Actually, I-80 toll road through Ohio and Indiana isn't all that expensive, but it isn't very interesting. No matter what it looks like on the map, you can't see Lake Erie from the toll road. I would agree to drop south using I-76/71, head west on I-70 and then 74/72.

    Hannibal has a lot of history to it. The historic district, where Mark Twain's boyhood home, Judge Thatcher's home, the businesses such as the apothecary, are all available to a walking tour. You can walk down to the waterfront, as well. There's a gauge that shows you how high the river was in 1993.

    About 4 or 5 miles south of US-36 is a little town called Marceline. Disney fans know this as Walt Disney's self-proclaimed hometown (he was actually born in Chicago), and the basis for the design of Main Street USA in Disneyland. There's a museum there dedicated to Walt Disney.

    Just outside of Laclede, MO, also along US-36, is Locust Creek Covered Bridge.

    Of course, you'll need that 6th day if you want to do any sightseeing at all. It's 3000 miles via the route suggested by AZBuck, and that's 5 days of 600 miles. That mileage will be 11-12 hours every day.

    Suggestions to help you out:

    * Get a reasonably early start every day. Treat it like a work day. Leave early, make your destination 600 miles down the road, and turn in. Don't keep going. Treat it like a marathon, not a sprint.

    * Stop periodically to stretch your legs, not just for fuel or food.

    * At the end of the day, give yourself some relaxation time. Pick some relaxing activities. It will help you sleep better in a strange place, which you will need for the next day when you have to pick up and start the marathon all over again. My husband and I prefer a swim, but in the northern country in late May, outdoor pools may not be open yet. (Indoor pools work, too.)

    * Drink lots of water. It will keep you hydrated, which keeps your brain a bit fresher, but it will also make you stop. If a rest area isn't available, grocery stores, fast food places and truck stops all have restrooms too.

    If you don't stop for sightseeing, and do the drive in 5 days, your overnights would be in Springfield OH, Cameron MO, Cheyenne WY, and Wells NV. Two of those days are just slightly over 600 miles, because there isn't lodging available at the 600-mile mark. Your last day, depending on where in the Bay Area you need to go, will be around 565 miles.

    Last edited by DonnaR57; 04-03-2016 at 08:28 AM. Reason: adding info on overnights

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Heading west best make this a six day trip.

    How well do you know San Francisco?

    There is nothing worse than getting to an unfamiliar large metropolitan area after a long and tiring day on the road, maybe up to `14 hours for your last day..... and don't forget you will be driving into the sun.

    For that matter, the end of every long day, when you are getting tired, you will be driving into the sun.

    If you are new, or relatively new to the city, I would make that last night much closer to SF. It could be dark, or going on dark by the time you need to find your way to your destination.

    Every way you look at this trip, you'd be best off making it a six day trip.


  5. Default

    Oh man! thanks for the replies!.

    AZBuck: In lieu of your suggesting, I'm discussing with my friend with sticking to route 80 in addition to trying to add a few more days to the trip. I will give a look at your midwest suggestions =).

    DonnaR57: I have to admit I think we were hoping to drive more like 7-8 hours a day, but airing on the side of caution-your suggesting would probably be more realistic. As for lodging I probably will opt for AirBnB. As stated before I'm going to see if we can extend our trip a few more days. We want to make a planned out schedule from day to day-where we want to be-what we want to see etc. I will also look into your tourist suggestions as well! =D.

    Lifey: to be exact we actually will be ending our trip in Berkeley CA (which is right outside SF). I have a sister who lives there and I'll be staying with her and working in the area for 3 months (the friend that is joining me is on the time constraint). So even if the end of trip is in unfamiliar territory, will be ending it with family/friends-people that will allow me to crash on their couch unapologetically after a long trip =D. Also 3 months to explore a new city along with its surroundings areas.

    On a side note-I will also have to drive back sometime in august/early September. I'll be driving back alone-but I should be able to go at my own pace and really get see different places (so I might do that southern route then).

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I am really excited to drive across country for my first time! =)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Quote Originally Posted by Metroid522 View Post
    I have to admit I think we were hoping to drive more like 7-8 hours a day, but airing on the side of caution-your suggesting would probably be more realistic.
    Even if you take a full 6 days for the trip, the most direct route is going to require you to be on the road for about 9 hours a day.

    Disregard the fantasy travel times provided by online mapping programs. In the real world, you're only going to average 55-60 mph over a full day on the road, factoring in minimal stops for food, fuel, rest, etc.

    If you are planning to go back later, I would absolutely go another route! If you'll be able to set your own pace, you won't have to be limited to the Interstates either.

  7. Default

    UPDATE-ok so this is what we sort of have planned at the moment-i think our plan is to hit the city areas and whatever we catch off the highway will be a bonus. I'd like to think we got a few hours to flex-also were planning on leaving relatively early for most mornings-ending early during the evenings in our stop zones. Let me know if this looks reasonable-ish.

    May 22nd (Nanuet-Columbus, OH)
    -5 AM-12 PM-pittsburgh-visit/lunch
    -2 PM-6 PM-columbus OH-settle for the night

    May 23nd (Columbus, OH-St. Louis MO)
    -6 AM Wake UP
    -Brunch-Indianapolis 10-11ish?-hang till 2-3
    -Dinner-St Louis

    May 24rd (St Louis-MO-Hays, KS)
    -6 AM Wake Up
    -Lunch/Hang in Kansas City
    -Dinner/Stop around Hays, KS

    May 25th (Hays, KS-denver)
    -Wake Up sometime in the morning
    -Lunch in Denver-hang in Denver for the day

    May 26th (Denver-Salt Lake)
    -Wake Up Early (around 6)
    -Lunch somewhere Wyoming
    -Dinner Salt Lake

    May 27th (Salt-Lake-Reno)
    -Leave Early-6 AM

    May 28th (Reno-SF)
    -Leave early-get there mid-late morning

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Looks good.

    Your stops look nicely spaced and should allow you some time to explore along the way. One tip is, when staying in [or near to] a major city, if you sleep on the west side it will help avoid the worst of the morning rush heading into the city for work.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    To add to what Dave suggested, you'll have to do that for every single one of your overnights with the exception of Hays, KS. It's not big enough to worry about.

    Also be aware that Reno to San Francisco on the Friday night of a major holiday weekend (Memorial Day Weekend) could mean heavy traffic. My husband states that there is heavy traffic on that section of the 80 almost all the time, but Fridays are heavier going in both directions.


  10. Default

    Hello all,

    I know it's been about half a year but I want to thank you all for your input. Driving out to CA (and back) was one of the best things i've done in my entire life, and the advice you provided really allowed us to enjoy the trip. I'm back home in NY balancing work and school at the current moment but am hungry for another road trip. Might do another one this summer but will see. So just wanted to give my thanks.

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